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Sept. 23 employee message: Is it COVID-19 or a cold?

September 23, 2021

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This message covers:

  • COVID-19 and colds
  • Testing reminders
  • Close contact reminders
  • How to get support and stay informed


Dear faculty and staff,

Chances are you or someone you know has had a cough, runny nose or other symptoms recently and wondered, is it COVID-19? The answer: not necessarily. Fall is a time of year when many kinds of respiratory viruses are active and this fall, as we return to more in-person activity of all kinds, those viruses are on the rise along with COVID-19.

But don’t let your guard down. If you’re having symptoms, stay home and get a COVID-19 test. If your PCR test is negative and you’re still having symptoms, you don’t need to test again – you can trust that you don’t have COVID-19. However, if your symptoms are concerning, you should talk to a health care provider about the best way to manage them. Limit your activities and contact with other people until you feel better.

Wisconsin continues to see a high number of COVID-19 cases, especially among unvaccinated people. In Dane County in August, a person not fully vaccinated was five times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 and 21 times more likely to be hospitalized than a vaccinated person, according to Public Health Madison & Dane County.

The good news: Vaccination rates on and off campus are very high. And the other steps we’re all taking to protect against COVID-19, including wearing masks indoors and frequently washing/sanitizing hands, also protect against other viruses.

Making the most of your mask

Multi-layer cloth or disposable masks that have a nose wire and fit properly over your nose and mouth to prevent leaks provide the best protection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Mask fitters help your mask fit even better. The Badger Seal mask fitter, developed right here in UW–Madison’s College of Engineering, is available free through ShopUW+. Learn more

The campus order requiring masks indoors has been extended through Nov. 26 – view the order.

Testing reminders

  • If you are having symptoms, and you are required to test because you do not have a vaccination record on file with UHS or you are a close contact of someone with COVID-19, make an appointment to be tested through the MyUHS app or website. (See below for more information on close contacts.)
  • Check all testing sites for available appointments as some, such as University Club, are less busy than others.
  • The weekly testing requirement for individuals who have not provided proof of vaccination has been extended through Nov. 26.

Close contacts

The WI Exposure Notification app is another way to find out if you’ve been in close contact with someone who has tested positive. The app is provided free from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services through the Google Play store or via Settings on iPhone. Once you activate the app, your phone exchanges anonymous signals with other phones that are near it for at least 15 minutes. If somebody who has the app tests positive for COVID-19, they can then send an alert using the app to those other phones. Learn more

How to get support and stay informed